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Thread: [M] The Sword and the Fang [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

  1. #61
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    It was Issa’s question that pulled Lec from their thoughts. It was innocent enough, and Lec appreciated Issa’s offer, but it left them wondering about the situation they were now in. Lec hadn’t quite asked Issa if he were okay with all this. They had just dragged him along, assuming he’d be fine with exploring more of human culture, but they weren’t giving him any opportunities to take things in, to ask questions, like he had before, in the market or at the library. Would he even survive watching them work? Or would his questions annoy the other audience members? Would his eyes make them uneasy enough to attack? Maybe their decisions would put him in greater danger now than if they had just let him head home.

    But they were here now, and there wasn’t enough time to debate their options. Issa seemed content enough anyhow, and for a moment, Lec selfishly tried to convince themselves he would enjoy this, and that would make up for all the trouble, all the risk. They tried to shake their thoughts and, with them, their head, answering Issa’s question after too awkward a silence.

    They made their way back to the inn, and Lec tossed their bag onto their bed. They were quick in throwing it open and tossing various articles of clothing around them. Noticing Issa, they hesitated, then said, “I have to get dressed. I, um, thought you should, too.” They glanced back over Issa’s body, covered in the furs of his people, unlike any human clothing from this region. “You will stick out wearing your clothes,” they explained, “and since we will be around a lot of people in a contained space, I thought it might be safer if you wore something else.” They dug through the clothes they had already thrown on the bed. “My father is larger than you, but I thought his size would fit you better than mine. I have… this.” They held up a plain, pale polo shirt with one hand and a pair of dark, belted pants in the other. As they showed him his new outfit, a sudden realization dawned over their features. Would Issa know how to put on his garments? Sure there was nothing special about the clothes Lec had chosen, but Issa was from a different world; what was simple to Lec might have been completely foreign to Issa. Once again they were reminded that they hadn’t asked if Issa was okay with any of this, and a swell of regret nestled in their stomach. They were being an awful host, and an awful person. They would make it up to him, somehow.

    Lec cleared their throat, and they offered the clothes to Issa. “You can use the bathroom!” they offered, all too quickly, insisting on giving the privacy to him. The thought of him dressing so near sent a blush rising from their collar, but they were more mortified at the idea of him opening the door to them, half-dressed and vulnerable. They quickly scolded themselves for the thought. Even if their profession called for a certain confidence in the way they dressed, it had never quite followed to their personal life. They cleared their throat again. “If you need help, you can just call for me.”

    With Issa gone, Lec turned their attention to their own outfit. They had chosen their dress in a hurry, but they certainly could have done worse than this. Tugging off their clothes, they stepped into the bottom part of their outfit: a puffy pair of pants with a wraparound skirt on all sides but the front. The flowing silks and chains adorning the skirt would highlight the graceful motions of their dance, giving them a weightless look. Their top matched the vibrant blue of their bottom, a glitter bandeau that wrapped around one shoulder and had a collection of jewels and chains of its own. They snapped an anklet into place, then a couple bracelets, lamenting the ones in their room that would go better with the rest of their garments. To finish their look, they looked over the paints they’d grabbed and tried to think of how to dress up their face.

    But before they grabbed for a brush to apply the paint, they stopped to listen for Issa. He’d been quiet for a minute. “Do you need any help?” Lec called. Would they even be able to help him? They felt their cheeks with their hands and cursed the warmth pooling there. Stop acting like a schoolgirl, they scolded themselves. He’s just a guy. But Evelin’s words were persistent, snaking back to the forefront of their mind, and even the signs in Soren’s hands had suggested something else. He was a very pretty guy, Lec conceded, if only to silence their own thoughts.
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  2. #62
    Mistborn
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    That simple, dismissive head shake was more than enough to answer Issa’s question, and seemed to confirm his most recent suspicions besides. It was a disappointing response, but not an unexpected one. Still, the Lucet wasn’t planning on giving up quite so easily. Instead of wasting Lec’s time pressing the issue, he lapsed into a thoughtful silence for the majority of their return trip. Issa’s body seemed to follow Lec on autopilot, with the bulk of his attention focused inwards, for once. Practical suggestions continued to elude him, but he was determined to persevere. He was bound to come up with a good idea sooner or later, if he kept at it.

    Once the two of them were tucked away inside Lec’s home again, Issa watched on curiously as his human guide began scattering the bag’s contents about the room. At least, until Lec suggested that he get changed too. Unable to help himself, Issa glanced downwards that the furs he was currently wearing, and suddenly felt every bit the fool. He’d spent so much time concerned about his eyes, about the way they marked him, that he’d totally failed to consider how his clothes were doing the exact same thing. In fact, his clothes would brand him as an outsider long before anyone got close enough to notice that his eyes were scarlet, now that he thought about it. How had he never realised this before?

    When Lec offered up a replacement, Issa reached out and took them. He held the set of human clothes at arm’s length, expression…dubious. He wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about trying to wear human clothes, truth be told. It was a good idea, of course, but it felt wrong, somehow, in a way that he couldn’t quite articulate. Something that went beyond the way the foreign material felt against his hands. Still, it was another element of human culture that he was yet to experience. That thought alone was enough to prompt his agreement.

    “O-okay.” A stuttered agreement was the best Issa managed, before he found himself wrapped up in the privacy offered by Lec’s bathroom. Issa hadn’t been given the chance to see in here before, and so he took the opportunity to look around a little; partially out of curiosity, and partially as a small way of procrastinating what came next. Whilst some elements seemed self-explanatory, there were others that he couldn’t even begin to guess at. Indoor plumbing was a mystery to him, but one that was quickly figured out. The Lucet reached out and turned on one of the taps on little more than a whim, and was rewarded almost immediately with a steady trickle of clear water. He delighted in his new discovery for just a moment, before turning it off again. He didn’t know where the water came from, but he didn’t want to use up too much when he didn’t actually need it.

    The thing that surprised him most, however, was the bathroom mirror. A child of the forest, Issa had seen his reflection plenty of times, but never with such clarity. The distorted picture returned by a running stream couldn’t compare with the crystal-clear image shown in the strange sheet of polished metal that sat before him now. Issa looked at it – himself – closely, mystified. He raised a hand to feel out the curve of his jaw, and was almost surprised when the other him did the same. This was what he really looked like? How other people saw him? There were so many details, so much he hadn’t known about his own face before, that others would have known at just a glance. It was a strange thought. Not good or bad, necessarily. Just…strange.

    He could only stall for so long, though. The Lucet didn’t want to keep his host waiting. Eventually, he had no choice but to turn his attention back to the human clothes, and the task currently at hand.

    “It’s alright, Issa. You’ve seen plenty of humans wearing these things already, so they can’t be that bad. You can figure this out.” The Lucet mumbled a few words of gentle reassurance to themselves, and prayed that they wouldn’t be audible on the other side of the door. At long last, he quickly stripped off his furs, dumped them on the floor unceremoniously, and reached for his new garments.

    On the most basic level, getting dressed was simple enough. Issa had a rough idea of how things were supposed to look, if not exactly how one was supposed to put them on, and could use that knowledge as a basic guide. He only had so many appendages, too, and the clothes only had so many openings. It took a little bit of trial and error, but it wasn’t long before he thought he had everything in the right place. The Lucet wasn’t confident, exactly, but he felt like he was close enough to avoid making a total fool of himself.

    When Lec eventually called out to him, Issa was relatively quick to respond. He pulled the bathroom door open, without stopping to consider whether or not Lec was also dressed. “I’m not entirely sure. How does it look?” At a glance, the Lucet hadn’t done too badly. He had both the shirt and pants on the right way, and neither piece was inside out. It was mostly the small details that had escaped Issa’s notice. Whilst they didn’t ride low enough to reveal anything incriminating, he hadn’t managed to do up the zipper or belt on the pants. The collar of his shirt was twisted strangely, and the buttons had been left undone. It was far from perfect, but not a terrible attempt.

    Issa was looking down when he first opened the door, as if trying to appraise his own clothes. After a brief moment, he glanced upwards, at Lec. The follow-up that he had been about to ask died on his lips as he caught sight of them in their dancing costume. His eyes went wide, and for just a moment, the Lucet was struck speechless. The billowing fabric lent his human host an air of elegance and grace that was readily apparent, even at a glance, to say nothing of the rich colours and sparkling accessories. It was, all things considered, the most lavish, flattering outfit that Issa had seen during his time amongst the humans.

    “I…you…wow.” When the Lucet finally managed to speak, the first words out of his mouth were a garbled mess. He took a moment to clear his throat, just to buy himself a little bit of time. It took him a few seconds longer to pull his thoughts into enough order that he could hope they might make sense. “Um…why don’t more humans wear clothes like that?”

  3. #63
    The Ashen One
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    The bathroom door swung open, and out stepped their Lucet companion. Issa was dressed in their father’s clothes, but he gave the simple outfit a carefree if charming look their dad would have never dared. He’d left his buttons undone and his belt unbuckled, and for a moment, Lec wondered about the implications before dismissing it as Issa’s ignorance regarding human fashion. The clothes were a bit big on him, and his open shirt fell slightly down his chest, trousers hung loosely around his waist, and Lec smiled. It was a good first try, and they wondered if they would be any better figuring out Lucet clothing. They turned their gaze up to Issa’s face, about to teach him how to fix the things he’d missed, but the expression in his eyes stopped them from moving.

    Perhaps it was the way his eyes explored their body, as if seeing it for the first time, or perhaps it was his words, the breathy syllables that fell from his lips; whatever it was, Lec couldn’t remember the last time anyone had reacted to them that way. They were all too aware of the heat furiously rising to their cheeks. Surely Issa didn’t find them… attractive? But the look in his eye… Lec averted their gaze, all at once embarrassed and flattered. They awkwardly cleared their throat at the same time Issa did, and they started to speak when Issa did. They shook their head, words fizzling on their tongue as they listened to his question, a welcome distraction from how awkward they felt.

    “Oh, well,” they started, their voice too high-pitched and out of place until they cleared their throat again. “I guess because they’re not very practical?” They looked down at their outfit, then held out a leg to see the silks to the side move with it. “Something like this would get in the way of everyday life, and besides, these are handmaid, which means they’re more expensive. It can take a long time to find the materials for something like this, then to measure it out for one person, and to spend all that time working on it. So things like this are often only worn for theater. Er—” Did the Lucet even have theater? “For performances like mine,” they corrected. “I’m… glad you like it. I made it myself.”

    Satisfied with their answer for now, they straightened and told themselves it was just their outfit that had entranced Issa. He likely didn’t have anything so intentionally eye-catching back home. They tried to force the blushes from their cheeks and took a step towards him. “You want to, um.” Their hands wavered in the space between them, shy but wanting to help. “Sorry,” they mumbled as they made up their mind and took the edges of the shirt into their hands. They did his buttons for him, leaving the top one undone in case he felt too restricted. After, they moved to help with his belt, then firmly decided against it. “You want to put the strap through the metal opening there,” they instructed instead, miming with their hands as they did so. “Pull it until it fits comfortably, then push the thin piece through whatever hole is closest.” It was an oversimplification, but Issa still got it, and for that they were grateful.

    Just then, a thought reoccurred to them, and they spun towards the bed, remembering what they’d been going to do. They would be needed downstairs soon and their face was not done. Lec gathered the various bottles and tubes from the bag and considered the colors they had. “Sometimes,” they explained as they made their way to the bathroom to take advantage of the mirror there, “humans paint their faces, usually to highlight their eyes, or pronounce their cheekbones. Some humans do it to feel prettier and more confident, and some people do it every day even. Performers usually go for different styles, though, since our jobs require us to draw attention to ourselves and look extravagant. We go for more unique designs, so most humans don’t do this like I’m about to.”

    As they spoke, they opened their supplies and began applying different things with their fingers and a couple thin-tipped brushes. Their main focus was their eyes; they outlined them in a bright blue that brought out the near-turquoise center of their irises, finishing the stripe with a sharp edge, then brushed over their lids with silver glitter. Even in their haste, they were precise, as if they had done this many times before. When their face was done, they capped their paints, tossed their brushes into the sink, and glanced at themselves in the mirror. Determined fingers ran through uncooperative hair, and they did what they could to curl it towards their chin while brushing the shaved half down. Finally, they turned back to Issa, now satisfied with their look.

    They didn’t have the time they wanted to practice. Lec held their hand out in front of them and conjured a sphere of water. Its currents flowed freely, crashing in on itself and splashing water onto their outfit. They paused for a moment, then shook their head. “No water,” they mumbled to themselves as they tossed the water ball to the ground, leaving a puddle at the entrance of the bathroom. “Fire?” They glanced towards Issa. No fire, they added silently. “We should get downstairs. Will you…” They looked Issa over. In human clothes, in the dark, no one would even see the hue of his eyes, the proof of his identity. “Will you be alright?” They trusted Issa, more than they should have, but they didn’t know how he would fare surrounded by so many people, without them to answer his questions, to correct him, to shield him from the humans that were less likely to take well to his culture shock. A different part of them wondered if Issa would enjoy the show, if he’d look at them again like he just had.
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  4. #64
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    Issa was the one who had asked the question, but he found himself having a little bit of trouble focusing on the answer. The way Lec moved their leg was clearly designed to draw attention to their outfits’ accents, and it succeeded in doing just that. So much so that the Lucet was only really managed to listen with half an ear, with the rest of his attention focused elsewhere. The news that they had made their costume themselves, however, was enough to draw Issa’s focus. In fact, he seemed to perk up slightly at the news. For Lec to have constructed something so elaborate, so beyond what he saw most humans wear…his tour guide was an expert at more than just magic and answering questions, it seemed.

    The Lucet might have said as much, but it wasn’t long before Lec turned the tables on him. The human reached out to help adjust his shirt, and Issa became pointedly aware that he was the now the one being scrutinised. Issa had no reason to be embarrassed, he knew – this was the first time he had ever tried on human clothes, after all. A mistake or two was inevitable. Still, he had wanted to make a good effort of it, at least. He almost felt like an incompetent or unruly child, being fussed over by an annoyed parent. And yet…some small part of his mind couldn’t help but think about how close Lec was standing. About the warmth of their hands, kept from his body by just a thin layer of fabric. Issa could feel his cheeks starting to burn, and suddenly found the far right wall extremely interesting.

    When discussion turned to his belt, Issa found himself thankful for the distraction. He looked down at the strange amalgamation of leather and metal, and did his best to follow his guide’s instructions. It took a little bit of fumbling around, but it wasn’t long before he managed to successfully lock the clasp into place. Afterwards, when Lec turned away, the Lucet took that as a sign that his outfit was now acceptable. A strange mixture of satisfaction and relief washed over him, and he finally stepped out of the bathroom doorway.

    When Lec finished rummaging through their bag, Issa was quick to swap places with them. He quickly claimed a spot atop the bed, positioned where he could still see, and tucked his legs underneath himself. He both watched and listened, curious, as Lec began the process of applying their makeup. He had seen similar things back home – the Lucet occasionally painted their faces for particular festivals or celebrations, when it was appropriate. But that only happened a couple of times a year. He could scarcely imagine someone going through the effort every day. Beyond that, the face paint Lec was using was undoubtedly more refined than the ones they used back home,. The colours were more vibrant, and it was applied with more skill. Where a Lucet might have covered their entire face, and made themselves a living mask, Lec worked with a little more nuance, highlighting the things they deemed to be most important. The end result was subtle, but striking.

    Again, the Lucet might have said as much, but they were once again robbed of the chance when Lec conjured up a ball of water, seemingly out of nowhere. Issa practically jumped in his seat at the sight of it. He had seen Lec perform more impressive magic before, certainly but the casual nonchalance with which they did so was shocking. His eyes widened, surprise written blatantly across his features. The Lucet began to lift one arm slightly, as if he might reach out to try and touch it, but he quickly suppressed the urge, just in time for Lec to toss it away. He stiffened a little at the unexpected mention of fire, and was thankful when Lec refrained from conjuring up a ball of that, too. When his guide next spoke, Issa jumped at the chance to move on.

    “Of course I will. I just need to sit down, watch, and not draw any attention to myself, right? Surely that won’t be too difficult, if everyone is focused on your performance.” Issa’s answer was nonchalant, almost flippant. Part of him couldn’t help but wonder if Lec’s concern was well-founded, that his human had felt the need to ask should have been cause for concern, but…well, it was hard for Issa to conceptualize such a simple thing going so terribly wrong. Without any further ado, the Lucet climbed to his feet again and casually strolled towards Lec, and the door. “If worse comes to worse, I’ll just change into something small, and quick, and nimble, and slip away during the confusion. It’ll be fine.”

    When the two of them arrived, they found the taproom busier than the last time they had passed through. It wasn’t quite crowded yet, but it looked like it would be heading that way soon. There were only a few vacant tables and booths yet, and it looked as if even those would be filled before long. Lec’s pending performance was enough to draw quite a crowd, it seemed. Issa surveyed the room in silence for a moment, before throwing a sideways glance towards his human.

    “I just have to pick an empty seat, right? I’d like to be right up the front, but perhaps one of the booths near the back would be safer.” Once they had decided on a seat, Issa would stroll down the stairs and into the taproom good and proper, and dove into the growing crowd. He tried to slip past without jostling anyone, but a few bumps and nudges proved inevitable. Even so, in the low light of the fading evening, nobody seemed to give him a second glance. The difference was startling. Despite how unfamiliar and uncomfortable they were, he couldn’t help but feel glad for the human clothes.

    It wasn’t long before the Lucet managed to slip into one of the few empty seats that remained, silently claiming it for himself. He positioned himself so that he was facing the stage as directly as possible, with his back facing the far wall, before finally lowering himself into his seat. Unlike a regular human, Issa opted not to sit with his feet on the ground. Rather, the Lucet crossed his legs beneath himself, much the same way he had been sitting on Lec’s bed earlier. He threw a subtle glance around the room, trying to get a feel for his new surroundings, only to stop himself when one of the humans glanced his way. Deciding that the risk of accidentally meeting someone’s eye was too high, he turned his attention back towards Lec instead.

    “How long do I have to wait before it starts?”

  5. #65
    The Ashen One
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    Despite Issa’s assurance that he would be fine during their performance, Lec couldn’t help the worry that crept up their throat. They were already imagining all the ways things could go wrong for their Lucet friend. True, with his furs now gone, Issa looked like any man—any beautiful man—though Lec considered maybe they should have suggested brushing his hair, or giving him glasses to wear, or— No, he would be fine, they told themselves. And with that hope repeating in their thoughts, they led Issa downstairs without another word.

    Already a crowd of people mulled about the room, and Lec was surprised at the turnout. There were often big crowds during the suppertime rush, but the headcount here exceeded the most recent times they’d been here, and they wondered if it really was their performance that had doubled the inn’s clientele. They couldn’t imagine being that popular, on a weekday no less, but most times, they found it best not to think of the size of the audience. They turned their attention to the chairs and booths instead, looking for a seat for Issa. The two settled on a spot somewhere in the middle of the room, close enough that Issa would be able to see the stage well but far enough away that he wouldn’t draw too much attention. Lec walked him to his seat, hoping no one sat across from him, hoping this would go better than they feared.

    “It won’t be long,” they promised, their eyes rising to meet the face of the clock above the bar. When they looked back at Issa, he was sitting in a strange position, and they hesitated before letting it slide. “Oh,” they said, “if you order something, you can just ask them to put it on my tab.” Please don’t order anything expensive, they wanted to add, but they didn’t know if Issa had the concept of money they did, or any at all. They looked like they were going to say something else, but the lights dimmed, and their thought died on their tongue. “I should go,” they said, motioning towards the stage with their head. Of all the warnings that flashed through their mind—Don’t do anything stupid; don’t talk to anyone; don’t even breathe—the only one that passed their lips was, “Be safe.” And then they were off, leaving Issa alone in a room full of his enemies.

    After a quick word with the innkeep about preparations, Lec disappeared somewhere near the stage, silhouetted by the darkness concentrated there. They felt the wood beneath their bare feet, just as they had before so many performances before. It was their way of aligning themselves with their stage, getting a feel for where it was weak, where it was sturdy, which spots could withstand the brunt of their magic. Satisfied, they stilled, and they waited for the crowd to settle, for their cue to begin.

    From somewhere behind the bar, a drum sounded, hollow call echoing through the room, and a single light flicked on above Lec, a beacon amid the darkness. Their eyes were closed as they stood with their feet together, arms on either side of them, but the arch of their brow suggested they were using their energy in ways the gathered crowd could not see. When the drum sounded again, a gust of wind rose from the stage, billowing the fabrics of Lec’s uniform around them. The third and final call announced the beginning of their performance.

    Their dance was slow, graceful, and they moved as if swayed by the wind, limbs rocking gently but stance ever steadfast. The wind whistled around them, whipping in time with their movements, gentle caresses that left their clothes and hair fluttering. As the dance went on, the winds got fiercer, and Lec’s movements grew quicker, keeping the rhythm they had set. They moved their feet then, twirling through the gusts. Tornadoes spiraled around them, grasping at the dancer, pulling on their chains that jingled in the movement. Lec grabbed a tornado in each hand, effortless despite the frantic currents, and they began to move them like ribbons flowing through the air.

    Once again their tempo hastened, and their footfalls quickened against the smooth wood. They hopped over rope-like vortexes as wisps of their held tornadoes reached for their hair and shirt. Focus was clear on their face; one misstep would have the wind knocking them off their feet, and they could not afford the mistake. But as they faced their eyes to look out at the crowd, at the smiling faces, the suspense written among the expressions of their audience, they were only interested in one person. When Lec’s eyes met Issa’s, saw the fascination there, saw the wonder, a new heat claimed their cheeks. They faltered for just a moment, long enough for a whip of a zephyr to snap at their ankles, to steal the breath from their lungs, but they recovered quickly, imperceptibly, and just like that they were moving through their magic again, full of grace and elegance and a deep blush not part of their dance.

    Lec could feel the hint of fatigue creeping into their chest, but they didn’t dare slow their pace. Instead, they picked up their winds, spinning them faster and fiercer. Strands of their tornadoes fell out to the crowd, licking at tablecloths and clothes and raising a delighted noise from the audience. Other whips touched at the overhead lamps, moving them in ways that sent dim lights flying throughout the room. And then, just when Lec feared their fast steps were getting too difficult to keep up with, they brought their hands together, watched as their winds combined, creating a tornado around themselves. They concentrated all their energy on maintaining their magic, on not being swept away, and as they twirled with their winds, clothes and chains fluttering about them, eyes raised to the ceiling and hands reaching as if to touch the audience, the light cut above them, ending their show.

    Whispers fell over the crowd, then applause, and as the house lights came back on, the cheering grew louder. Lec stood at the center of the stage, their magic evaporated and their breaths coming in gasps. They looked out at the crowd, but over the people standing in the front, they could not see the only person they cared about in that moment. Lec bowed and curtsied, then did it again, until finally they slunk from the stage and made their way through the room in search of Issa.
    Last edited by Ashen; 06-11-2021 at 04:57 AM.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

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